Category Archives: Charity

Making Choices

I made two choices this week that were pretty significant. One is I finally decided (letting go, with much sadness) that I wasn’t going to Authentic Inspiration: A Writing and Meditation Retreat this weekend with Susan Piver at Shambhala Mountain Center. The other is that when the first round of tickets were released yesterday for World Domination Summit 2013, I didn’t buy one, (I’d already made this choice once this summer, while at the conference, when current attendees were for a limited time offered a discounted ticket).

It isn’t that I didn’t want to attend these events. In fact, my desire to go to both is strong. It’s also not that I can’t afford them, because I could. It’s just that there are compelling reasons to chose otherwise, and my heart and gut are telling me that I am making the right decision. This is something I’ve learned in the past year: after you trim your life down to the only things you really want and love, you will still have to make choices, and sometimes it means choosing one good thing over another, one longing over another.

Another choice I made is what I’m going to do with the $100 dollars I got at World Domination Summit (WDS) 2012. If you remember, each attendee was given a hundred dollar bill on the last day of the conference (watch the video below to see Chris Guillebeau’s explanation) along with a note that said “We’d love to see how you can put these funds to good use. Start a project, surprise someone, or do something entirely different–it’s up to you!”

I’m not going to lie, this gift, this challenge came with a lot of responsibility and some anxiety. I wanted to think of something “good enough.” I struggled with what to do for the past two months. I donated a similar amount to Save the Lyric, a Kickstarter campaign to save our local independent movie theater. Then I gave a similar amount to the John F. Ptak Relief Fund. John is married to one of my favorite writers, Patti Digh, and was diagnosed with kidney cancer while uninsured. I felt good about giving to these causes, but they didn’t feel like THE cause, the one where I should put my WDS $100. I kept waiting for that special feeling, the magic moment of realization, of awareness, of connection, that rush of certainty, but nothing was happening.

And then my cousin Sarah commented on one of my recent blog posts, and I noticed she’d started a new blog, Eulogy Postponed. When I read it (it’s new, so it’s only a few posts and an about page), I knew. This was it. I was giving Sarah my $100 so that she could “Go somewhere. Be a voice. Do something.”

I don’t have a life that allows me to do this. Yes, I can be a voice, and I can do something, but I can’t easily go anywhere. I have a house, a tiny family, and a full-time job, so whatever I do, I have to do from here, but Sarah can go, and I can help her.

Sarah at the beach, where she came to visit me the summer before she left for a semester in New Zealand.

On Sarah’s about page, she says, “My delusional mind also believes in the idea of helping strangers. If each and every person in the world is serving, then everyone is also being served. Karma. The Golden Rule. Love is the only rational act,” and

What if life wasn’t what ifs? What if we all actually did those things we talk about doing? What if we were each serving our families, friends, neighbors, cities, countries, solar systems as best we could? What if you let yourself be the gloriously passionate individual you are and shared that with the rest of the world? What if you stopped telling yourself no.

I tear up every time I read that. There’s an odd family pride, a sense of gratitude that she is “my people.” I am also flooded with nostalgia and love, memories of the sweet little girl she was, her love of dogs, how she could keep up with the boys, all the times she made me laugh, and how much she loved fresh fruit. I remember all this, and am amazed by the woman she’s become, strong and compassionate.

So, this hundred dollars is hers, an investment in the plans she has to help, to serve, to do good. I wish her all the best, and am sending her (along with the cash) so much love and gratitude.

Wishcasting Wednesday

What do you wish to create?

I wish to create a wholehearted life in which I practice self-love and self-care, balance work with play and rest, maintain a healthy body with ease, experience an abundance of gratitude and joy, embody love and kindness and sanity, am mindful and connected and open-hearted and brave.

I wish to create art that inspires and heals, that reminds people of basic goodness and helps to ease suffering in the world.

I wish to create resources (books, art, workbooks, webtexts, videos, podcasts, ecourses, classes, workshops, retreats, etc.) that act as a map for others who want to find their way deeper, to sink more fully into their heart and life.

I wish to create space where people can come together and safely explore what it means to live an authentic, wholehearted life, to practice such a thing.

I wish to create a project or a collective that helps advance health and well-being (clean water, food, access to medical care and education, and the cultivation of mindfulness, compassion, and wisdom) in places where this is the least likely, most difficult.

Something Good

1. We saved the Lyric! I absolutely love the design for the t-shirts they made for those who contributed. “Let There Be Light”? Perfect.

We humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives in which we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others. Nor is it so remarkable that our greatest joy should come when we are motivated by concern for others. But that is not all. We find that not only do altruistic actions bring about happiness, but they also lessen our experience of suffering. Here I am not suggesting that the individual whose actions are motivated by the wish to bring others happiness necessarily meets with less misfortune than the one who does not. Sickness, old age, mishaps of one sort or another are the same for us all. But the sufferings which undermine our internal peace—anxiety, doubt, disappointment—these are definitely less. ~Dalai Lama

To celebrate, I am going to see a movie there this Thursday with some friends. From the trailer and a few reviews I’ve heard from people I trust, it is going to break my heart.

2. Oh, Mr. Brilliant by Patti Digh. I think I mentioned last week that I was super sad that Patti had just found out her husband had cancer. This post tells a little bit more of their story, ending with a way you can help them. This is further proof of how strange life is, beautiful and brutal.

3. A Weekend of Pies on Soule Mama. You don’t even have to read this post, just look at the pictures and be prepared to drool, (and yes, this list just moved directly from a post about cancer to one about pie, life is like that).

4. Aimee Mann is coming to Colorado! Okay, so maybe Eric is the only reader that really cares about that. We love her, (I have ever since her Til Tuesday days), see her every time she comes to Colorado, so I was really excited when she announced tour dates this morning and I was able to get tickets. Her new album is releasing September 18th, but you can preorder it now.

5. How to Turn Every Email Into a Mini Meditation from Jonathan Fields. I really like this idea, might try it.

6. Fear + Happiness, or Eight Ways to Let Go of Fear from Katie Swanberg. This is a goooood list.

7. And in related news, Go Small, Be Happy from Tammy Strobel.

8. A reminder to let go, from Lao Tzu:

By letting go it all gets done.
The world is won by those who let go.
But when you try and try,
the world is beyond winning.

9. From Austin Kleon, Show Your Work! Episode 1: Vampires.

10. 12 Amazingly Achievable Things To Do Today from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

12. From the utterly brilliant Justine Musk, are you a cup of tea…or a shot of tequila? in which she says:

You want to be a focused, highly skilled, freak version of yourself.

You want to dig down deep to find that unique part, that weird and maybe slightly psychotic part, that beautiful raw fucked-up part, that you spent a lifetime learning to hide in the first place.

13. Piecing Together Connie’s Sky from Judy Clement Wall on her blog A Human Thing. Yes, I am slightly biased here: Judy talks about a post I wrote, and I adore her…but that doesn’t change the fact that this is real and true and important.

14. And to close, a picture of Blue, a most adorable puppy that’s up for adoption at Animal House. That face! *sigh* And I am a sucker for a dog named Blue.


In this last month of 2011, I keep getting reminded to reflect and celebrate the past year, as well as look ahead, dream, and anticipate the next. The newsletter I get from writing coach Cynthia Morris of Original Impulse Inc. came today and included a link to an end of year review, “Celebrate and Let Go: Take some time to acknowledge yourself for what you have accomplished and who you have become over the last year.” I went in my meditation room and lit the candles on my shrine with the intention of working with it, but I ended up taking a nap instead, honoring my need for more sleep. I did this because in the last year, I have become a better friend to myself.

Happily and coincidentally, Wishcasting Wednesday on Jamie Ridler’s site today is “What do you wish to celebrate?

from Jamie's post

First, I wish to celebrate Jamie Ridler and her outreach to dreamers and wishcasters like me. Today is her birthday, and her birth, her commitment to being who she is and sharing that is a gift to all of us. She throws a wishing party every week, bakes a big cake, and invites all of us to blow out the candles and make our own wish.

On Jamie’s “about” page on her website, she includes this list:

I believe…

  • The arts belong to everybody
  • In finding the courage to be who we are meant to be
  • In experiencing life
  • In celebration
  • There is room for you, all of you
  • Our bodies are wise
  • The world needs our gifts
  • That having fun and working hard are awesome companions
  • That life is sacred
  • In the Universe

Jamie’s open-hearted and generous work helps me to believe these things too. On this day of her birth, may she be peaceful. May she be happy. May she be safe. May she be awake to the light of their true nature. May she be free. (See what I did there? Now when other wishcasters come, and finish the practice by wishing “As you wish, I wish also” it will send Jamie an even bigger birthday wish–maybe I should warn her about all the goodness coming her way? Nah, I think I’ll let her be surprised.)

I wish to celebrate the wisdom and kindness I practiced during this past four months, specifically at work. I was teaching, which is always intense, and working with a few difficult situations, but I managed it with grace, most of the time. As much as I could be, I was wise and kind, and at the very least, I managed to generate less suffering.

I wish to celebrate this blog, and all its kind and gentle readers. I started this blog on a whim, a “sure, why not” moment of inspiration that I described like this “I had my students set up blogs for a semester long blogging project they’ll be doing. One girl raised her hand and said, ‘Can I just say how excited I am about this? I have been wanting to start a blog for the longest time, and ever since you said we were going to get to in this class, I’ve been so excited.’ Hey, me too…I think I’ll start a blog. Why not? And especially, why not now?!” and ever since that moment, that first post, this has felt so right.  The Universe keeps saying “yes” to me, celebrating with me that I finally broke through and got unstuck and started.

from Hippie Dogs' blog

I wish to celebrate all the kindness being practiced by so many.
There’s so much of it that if you are paying attention, there really is no time for criticism or negativity, there’s just no room. If you haven’t received your invitation yet, roll up your sleeves and get dirty.

I wish to celebrate all the people and projects who’ve made it easy for me to get involved and help do good: especially the Pine Ridge Holiday Project, Animal House Rescue, Heifer International, and the Larimer County Food Bank.

I wish to celebrate the choice I made to honor and love myself. This is one of the best things I have ever done, and I can’t stop thanking myself for it. I heard wedding vows the other day and it struck me that they are similar to the promise, the commitment I’ve made to myself: “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” Amen.

Something Good

1. Monday is almost over. This is the last week of classes at CSU, and as in love as I ever was with my class and as much I adored my students, I am ready to be done now.

2. The art of Hugh MacLeod. He posts his work on his website, gapingvoid, and it is this lovely mix of sharply funny (like the edge of a knife sometimes), smart, and open-hearted.  In honor of the first item on this “Something Good” list, here’s one of my current favorites:

art by Hugh MacLeod

3. Seven Day Weekends. Not having to go to work for almost the whole week of Thanksgiving was great.  We should do that more often.

4. This kid, and everything about him and this video. The moment he takes a deep breath, wipes his tears, and holds up “But…I’m not going anywhere,” was the best, so brave. After you watch the video, make sure to read his update, which says, in part: “The video is real, and true…Love and peace to all who are hurting.” Amen.

5. Pine Ridge Holiday Project. Sorry to sound like a broken record, but I am just so in love with this, and I really think you should try it. You don’t have to be in Colorado, people from all over the world have taken part in the past, all you need to do is email Christine or Julie and get some names. In the last few days, they got more lists, specifically infants, and have so many kids, infants, and elders left who really need your help this season. From my heart: if you have enough this season and you are loved, please share that with someone who might not be so lucky.

6. “Women, Food, and God” Eating Guidelines. These are so simple, so complicated, and have been so helpful to me. I highly recommend this book to any woman who struggles with her relationship with food. Here they are, the seven guidelines to eating more consciously, (and if you can already do this, good for you–please be kind to those of us who are struggling):

Eat when you are hungry.

Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.

Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.

Eat what your body wants.

Eat until you are satisfied.

Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.

Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.

7. Felted animals. I have been in love with these since I first saw them.

by artist Alisha Harms

There are artists that will use a picture of your dog and make you one that looks just like them. If the ones who are really good at it didn’t charge so much ($299!–the work is worth that amount, but I just can’t justify spending it), I’d have ones made of Obi, Dexter, and Sam and take them with me everywhere. I’d especially like one of Obi. He’s gone, but I could carry his miniature around in my pocket. And I know just who I’d hire to make them for me: Kay from Canada, of Kay’s K9s.  Her work is amazing! Here are a few of her custom pieces:

Dexter’s Mini D is pretty good, but not quite as close of a match.

8. Sharing a banana with Sam every morning. No matter where he is in the house, no matter how soundly asleep, he hears the snap of the top of a banana and before I can get the first side peeled, he’s sitting in front of me asking for some. One thing I love so much about it, besides the cuteness of a dog eating a banana, is that Obi loved bananas too.  Right after he died, the first banana I had all to myself was the saddest thing ever, so Sam has returned eating a banana to a joyful practice.

9. The Idea Manifesto. This is the work of Bernadette Jiwa, a “Results Coach” born in Dublin and living in Perth, Australia.

10. Twinkly lights.

  • Love and peace to all who are hurting.

Joy Jam and Gifts

I didn’t get to respond to yesterday’s National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) writing prompt yet, or today’s, so I’ll start there.

“What was the first tangible gift you remember receiving?”

I had to think really hard about this, but I believe it was my Mrs. Beasley doll. The Mattel Company created the Mrs. Beasley doll in 1967, so we were “born” the same year. She was Buffy’s favorite doll on the late 60s TV sitcom Family Affair, and I wanted to be Buffy, imagined I was. Mrs. Beasley wasn’t a baby doll, but rather this strange grandmotherly figure, which seems an odd thing for a little girl to want to play with. Buffy’s doll on the show didn’t talk, (in the sixties, talking dolls were not that common—this was long before Barney the purple dinosaur or Tickle Me Elmo), but mine had a string on the back you could pull and she’d say things like:

  • “Do you want to hear a secret? I know one.”
  • “I do think you’re the nicest little friend I ever had.”
  • “If you could have three wishes, what would you wish for?”
  • “If you were a little smaller, I could rock you to sleep.”
  • “Long ago I was a little girl just like you!”
  • “Speak a little louder, dear, so Mrs. Beasley can hear you.”
  • “Would you like to try on my glasses? You may if you wish.”

Honestly, she was the ugliest little thing: black square framed glasses, gold sock-shoes that covered up oddly large ball-shaped feet, a blue dress/pantsuit thing with white polka dots and gold trim, and bad hair.  And yet, she was so cheerful, had such a happy expression, and I took her with me everywhere I went.  My first official act as a “big girl,” after answering my mom’s very serious “are you sure about this?” many times, was to sell her at a garage sale.  I cried myself to sleep that night.

What was the most disappointing gift you received as a child?

My answer to this prompt isn’t about one single gift, but rather a practice of giving. My dad grew up poor and my mom was from a farm family of twelve kids, and we didn’t have a ton of money either, so my parents were very frugal–and rightly so. I learned a lot from them about simplicity and minimalism that I am so grateful for now, but as a kid, being so careful didn’t seem quite as joyful.

Sometimes in the fall, during the back to school season when all the winter coats would go on sale for 50% off, my mom would take us in to pick out a coat.  However, we didn’t get to keep it just yet.  She packed it away to save for Christmas.  The sense of anticipation on Christmas morning when you opened that package was disappointed by the recognition of the item you helped pick out and already knew about.  It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the gift, it was just that I missed the surprise.

Joy Jam: What were the 3-5 things that gave you joy this week?

This prompt comes every Friday from Louise Gale and her new project, “your heART makes a difference,” and the stated purpose is to “radiate the energy of gratitude, thankfulness and celebration of everything that gave us joy this week. Together we will help send positive energy out into the world.” You should join us! The trouble I always have with this prompt is there are more than 3-5 things, so I have to save a few to add to my Monday “Something Good” post.

1. Shopping for “my” Pine Ridge kids. I wrote about the Pine Ridge Holiday Gift Project the other day, and a few days after that in my Monday “Something Good” post.  I magically got assigned the same two kids this year, a five year old girl and a 10 year old boy. I typically don’t really like shopping, but love giving gifts, and buying for these two, now for the second year in a row, makes my heart so full.  A football, flashlights, mittens, hats, socks, soft cuddle blankets, a memory game, silly putty, coloring books, and crayons. I hope these material things can somehow carry all the love I feel for them, somehow communicate all the good I wish for them, these kids I have never met.

2. Walking the dogs Thursday morning with Eric in the snow. Typically, Eric and I don’t walk the dogs together in the morning during the week, but this Thursday, Eric came with us on “my” day. There hasn’t been enough snow yet this year for me to be tired of it, and I miss Eric during the week because we work and don’t seem to get to see each other much, and we had the park all to ourselves.  It felt like we were on vacation.

3. Conferencing with my students. Considering I did this for eight hours straight on Tuesday and didn’t leave campus until 8 pm, you’d think I’d complain, but I have such good students this semester! They make me laugh, make me feel useful when I can help them or make them feel better, have such great and interesting ideas, and like we all do, generate so much unnecessary suffering for themselves. I wish the best for them. Maybe they will save the world.

4. A new pack of metallic markers in fabulous colors. I can’t wait to use these.

5. Rediscovering my knee length sweater. It is so warm and soft, and a bit more stylish than my purple fleece bathrobe.  I can feel like I am lounging, but still look like I am dressed.

  • Wishing you gifts and so much joy!

Something Good

It’s Monday, so here’s a list of things that are good:

heART Exchange

This is such a great project, and the gift you make and receive seem to keep on giving, and giving, sending out ripples of joy, waves of love. If you are an artist, you need to watch this website and get in on the next art swap.

Cyber Giving Monday

I first heard about this from 365 Give. I love having even more opportunities to make a positive impact on the existence of another being, so I am in. This morning, in honor of my dear friend Kelly, who was an avid gardener, I donated a “Gardener’s Basket: This basket represents everything a family will need to start a sustainable farm – tree seedlings, rabbits to generate organic manure, chickens to eat pests and a hive of bees to pollinate crops and increase yields” through one of my favorite charities, Heifer International.

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation – Dell Big Crow Holiday Gift Project

I can’t say enough about how great this project is. Recently ABC News and Diane Sawyer did a Special 20/20 Edition on Pine Ridge called, “Hidden America: Children of the Plains.” I dare you to watch even just the first ten minutes and not want to email Christine or Julie immediately for names of tribe members to send gifts to. If I had the money, the first ten minutes of the episode would have had me rounding up supplies and a crew of people who knew how to do stuff to go down there and fix peoples’ houses, and then I’d start scholarship funds for every kid, make repairs to the schools, make sure every kid has enough to eat, every day. But I don’t have that kind of money, so I need you to help, starting with this one project. It is not right that in a country where, even with the poor economy, so many have so much and these people have so little. You can say what you want about grown ups, but no child ever did anything to deserve to grow up in such poverty.

Women, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth

This book has been a real help to me.  For example, “When you believe without knowing you believe that you are damaged at your core, you also believe that you need to hide that damage for anyone to love you. You walk around ashamed of being yourself. You try hard to make up for the way you look, walk, feel. Decisions are agonizing because if you, the person who makes the decision, is damaged, then how can you trust what you decide? You doubt your own impulses so you become masterful at looking outside yourself for comfort. You become an expert at finding experts and programs, at striving and trying hard and then harder to change yourself, but this process only reaffirms what you already believe about yourself — that your needs and choices cannot be trusted, and left to your own devices you are out of control,” (82-83).

Morgan Spurlock’s New Project, “The Failure Club.”

I first read about this project on A Year of Living Wisely. Here’s an article about the project, “Morgan Spurlock Launches ‘Failure Club’.” In the trailer for the show, “Welcome to Failure Club,” he says “We’ve all been told for so long in our lives the things we should be doing that most of us don’t ever do the things that we want to be doing. And the minute you break down that one little piece that’s holding you back, your whole outlook on the world will change.” Amen!

The Moth: True Stories Told Live

We listen to this on satellite radio, but there are also some stories you can listen to online. I love this show almost as much as I love This American Life.

Cardboard People

Since this week’s list has been more serious, maybe even a bit preachy, here’s something fun. Anton Tang, a talented artist and blogger from Singapore, photographs plastic “cardboard people” in everyday settings and environments.